Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere

Where did the last month go? We’ve been busy with chickens, among other things. I had been fretting about our rooster-to-hen ratio (the roosters get aggressive with the hens if there are too few hens to go around) — even with rehoming one of our roos to a friend’s flock who needed a leader, that still left me with Red and the two surprise boys from this spring’s chicks. And only eight girls. So when Rita went broody AGAIN, I quickly placed an order for some Black Sex-Link pullets. The breed is a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks, and the chicks can be told apart (male vs female) at hatching, based on feather color. Rita took right to her adopted babies and has been an excellent mother the past three weeks. They’re living in the mini-coop but come out during the day, so I’m hoping they’ll integrate into the rest of the flock fairly seamlessly.

What else? The garden is looking nice — the other day, we picked a load of cucumbers, the first few cherry tomatoes, and I dug up a small potato plant that had already died back. And the broccoli is ready for picking! Our second round of strawberries is ripening, but we’re fighting the slugs for them. The raspberries were amazing this year, but they’re more or less done now. I gave the girls a pail with raspberries the other day, and they fed them all to the chickens! I guess that’s how you know they’ve had their fill of berries for the season.

We picked up a set of the IKEA “Perler” beads (they’re a bit lighter weight than real Perler beads, but they’re also cheaper!), and M loves them. We sit together at the big table and work on them together, which I think is a big part of the draw. And I finished the floors downstairs! I still have a few bits to do (quarter-round in the girls’ rooms, painting the big window in the family room, gluing down transition strips), but the floors themselves are down, which is a big relief. They — along with painting all the trim white — really transformed the lower level. It feels so clean and fresh now!

New Dolly

I know a little girl who, according to her mom, was changing her dolls’ diapers and putting them to bed by the time she was eight months old. My girls are not like this! They’re both drawn to animals — M has always loved her Kitty Cat Doll, and both like little animal figures more than people or dolls. But you know what? I wanted to make a doll, so I made a doll! And M actually played with her for a half hour straight yesterday — or rather, we played with her together: I was her voice, and M talked to her and told her how the world works, since the doll had just been “born”.

I used the Waldorf method for making the doll’s head (not sure that it’s an official “Waldorf method”, but if you search for Waldorf doll tutorials, you’ll find lots of instructions out there), and her hair is made from alpaca yarn. I have sooo many lone skeins (or partial skeins) of yarn, and it turns out that dolls are the perfect project for them! I decided to knit her body, and I really like how it turned out. One aspect of crafting that I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older is that every new pattern can teach a new method, and I get to store those methods in my head for later. So I didn’t have a pattern for the knitted body, but I know how to shape a raglan top (her shoulder and arms), knit short rows (her bottom), create a gusset and kitchener stitch it closed (to start her legs), and how to increase and decrease in a way that’ll look nice and tidy (her feet). So it wound up being quite a fun little project, always moving on to the next part, since dolls are so small. I used the same knit fabric as her face for her arms, stuffed her with wool roving and put her together. Et voilĂ ! And now I get to start on the part I really like — her clothes!

Indoor Potato Harvest

At the very beginning of March, M and I planted a potato that had gone squishy and sprouted on the counter. I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to grow any potatoes in a container inside, but we were happy watching the plant grow. It had been over three months, and it was dying back, so we took the plant outside today to see what we could harvest. Bumper crop! Heh. Three tiny potatoes. M thought it was pretty neat, though. I fried them up in butter and gave them to her for a snack, and she said they were “Good!”. We’re hoping to get a few more (and bigger) potatoes from the garden this year. I love the discovery of digging up a potato plant to see what’s grown!

F is One

My little F is a real toddler now — she’s been walking for almost a month and a half, but yesterday she turned one! We had a low-key day yesterday; M had helped me decorate the kitchen the night before, and we opened F’s little presents after lunch. We’re having a party tomorrow, so she has to wait until then for her many fans — and her cake!

What a year it’s been. She and M are so alike in the ways that matter: both are sweet, happy, funny, smart, and super cuddly. But the first years felt so different. I wasn’t new to motherhood this time around, and more importantly, we didn’t have to weather the trauma and heartache of M’s medical issues. F has been a little challenging in the normal ways, but that stuff is easy.

From the minute F could hold her head up and catch a glimpse of her big sister, she’s been on a mission to catch up. She hit all her milestones about 1-1.5mos earlier than M (who was no slouch!), and I swear it’s because she sees this big kid running around and desperately wants to join in. She’s also SUPER dramatic, and I think part of that comes from having a 3.5yo as a role model. Preschoolers aren’t known for their mild reactions to setbacks! So F has taken some of that on, and I think there’s also just a need for her to be louder so I can hear her over M’s constant chatter! I can’t wait for (but am also kind of dreading?) the day when F is talking up a storm, too — I just hope that the two of them occasionally talk to each other and not both at me, non-stop. They’ll probably have their own comedy routine by the time they’re school-aged.

It’s such a joy seeing F growing up, but this change to toddlerhood definitely feels more emotional than when M was going through it. I think it’s partly because I know she’s my last baby and partly because the past year was so full of sweetness (and less stress). The good part is that the sweetness doesn’t end! In fact, now that F can walk, I’m frequently hobbled by shin-hugs, so the sweetness just keeps coming!

Not Quite Barefoot

I’ve been reading Balanced and Barefoot, which is basically a guilt trip in book form. Okay, not really, but it’s eye-opening to see how far the average child has slipped in terms of physical strength over the past several decades, and it’s not had to imagine why that is. Reading the book is a real motivator to make sure we get our outside time each day, even when I’m not feeling like it. Especially when I’m not feeling like it, because nobody in our family needs the benefits of moving around outside as much as I do!

We usually do a circuit around our house, dwelling longer in certain areas on different days. M has been asking to start out at the “fairy rocks” most of the time, which is also the spot where we can weave through the young birches to get in the woods. We’ve been bringing Jellybean (one of the young roosters) with us, as he’s so friendly and will tag along wherever we go. We have to see if the ants are out at the giant ant hill. Then it’s a run down to the pond and the big flat rock. A couple dozen leaps off the rock, looking for fish in the pond (we haven’t seen any lately — there are just some tiny minnow-y things), then up and over to the swing set. I check on things while M dawdles or runs in circles. Lots of blossoms on the apple tree; the baby catalpa is finally showing signs of life; some fuzzy critter has snuck in through the garden fence and eaten our little broccoli and cabbage plants (grr!).

Once F is bigger and can join us, we’ll have much more to explore. We’re going to need to invest in bug spray!

Growing, Changing

The weather has been here, there, and everywhere, but I feel like, overall, it’s been a pretty good spring. I just wish that F were older and could come explore the woods with M and I. I take M out while F is napping, but we can’t go very far before I lose the signal on the monitor. And the woods are too dense (with too many branches and twigs to duck under) to put F in the carrier. But she’ll probably be scrambling along with us next spring! She started walking at 10.5mos, so I reckon by the time she’s almost two years old, she’ll be climbing to the tops of trees!

Friends on Instagram have probably noticed that I’ve been exploring Waldorf methods/philosophies/projects. When M expressed an interest in fairies, I latched onto it — I don’t subscribe fully to any method except following the child’s interests and needs. Montessori seemed a great fit for her during her toddler years, and now as her imagination grows, a lot of the Waldorf “stuff” is really appealing. It’ll be interesting to see if F goes through the same phases or is more swayed by whatever big sister is into. Her birthday is next week (somehow!), and her little gifts are a good mix — the play silk and the little fairy (a decoration I made for her room) are more in the Waldorf category, while Schleich animals are a favorite of Montessori folks. We love our other Schleich farm animals, and F has started playing with them in the barn I made when M was little.

It’s interesting to see how M is drawn toward the magical as she gets a bit older. I don’t do Santa or the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc., and if you ask her if fairies are real, she’ll say no. But she also loves looking for fairy homes when we’re outside. It’s like she’s knowingly taking part in a suspension of disbelief because it’s fun. Which makes it fun for me. I just love watching her interests reveal themselves. And we’ve barely even begun with F’s!

Nature Girl

What a place to be a kid, huh? We have really been enjoying this sweet spot in the Minnesota year — there are ticks (but they haven’t been bad at all, so far), but none of the flying, biting bugs are out yet. It’s been so pest-free, in fact, that I keep fooling myself into believing that the flies and mosquitoes just might not come around this year. (I know that won’t be the case!)

Our lawn is full of dandelions right now — so pretty! I always felt pressure to dig them up when I lived in the city, but of course that would be completely futile and pointless out here. And they’re good for the bees. So we just enjoy our sea of little yellow flowers.

The other two photos are in our “new” area (not at all new, but we just started visiting it), full of rocks and small birches. The perfect place to climb around and think about fairies, if you’re three and a half! I’d like to get our big weed whacker out there to remove the tall and dead grasses, so it’s easier for short people to get to. I especially like that it feels like we’re in the woods, but it’s close enough to the house that the baby monitor still works when F is having a nap!

I’ve fallen behind on my egg counts, but we had three on Saturday, two on Sunday, and yesterday there were two, but one had a paper-thin shell and was broken. I’ve topped up their bowl of oyster shells — I hope that was a one-time thing!

Sunday Crafts

M and I broke out the watercolors on Mother’s Day. I was just playing around, which drew M over, and soon she was painting too. She painted a pink fairy (those little blue circles are its wings, and its head is floating above its body), a blue bird, and a blue flower. I love her pictures!

We also painted some little peg people. I painted seven of them in the Waldorf day-of-the-week colors, just in case we someday want to use them that way, although for now we’re just playing with them. (I started calling the green one Greeny, which of course led to the rest of them being called Orangey, Bluey, etc… I didn’t think about what would happen to our naming scheme when we got to the white one!). M painted the eighth one, and we named him Rainbow. I took the photo before I gave them a coat of beeswax polish, but they look really nice now. I never would have thought to use watercolors to paint wood, but that’s how M painted the fairies she made at Heartfelt. Such a nice look!

Home Again!

We capped off our mini-adventure with a visit to the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival (which you can still go to today, Sunday, if you’re in the Twin Cities area). It was great! I can’t believe how many fiber producers/artists there are in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area. F was delighted by the sheep, and M was all about the bunnies. Which plays nicely into my “plan” to become a merino/angora fiber farmer. M was a little disappointed that we didn’t bring a bunny home, but what she REALLY wanted was a spinning wheel. If only she were a little older! I had a tough time picking out just a few things to buy from the vendors, but I came home with some wool roving (to make another felted play scene for the girls), a bit of yellow silk roving, green banana silk fibers, some mohair curls (for peg doll hair), and a basket from Ghana. This is my third basket like this, although this one is “for the girls”.

It was fun to return home and see how things had grown over the past few days. Those strawberry plants are looking good (well, the cheaper ones are — the ten that were more expensive may or may not be donefer). I got more hardware cloth to put on the sides of the “cage” I’ve built to go over the strawberries. It probably won’t keep mice/shrews out, but at least it’ll stop birds eating our berries.

The chickens are coming up nicely in the front flower garden. That’s one of their favorite places to roll in the dirt. I need to get some more in to fill in all the holes they’ve made. The little chicks are in the big coop now (with some pieces of plywood to hide under), and everybody seems to be doing okay. They definitely prefer to stay under cover until the big chickens exit the premises, though. At this rate, by the time they muster up the courage to go outside, they’ll know for sure that the coop is “home”!